Philosophy Discussion

Guess Who is Coming to Dinner

Thesediscussion boards have been designed to explore controversialphilosophical topics. Some of the questions are designed to solicit verypersonal responses and opinions, and these debates have the potentialto become heated. In the act of creating ideas, heat can be a goodthing, but not at the expense of hurt feelings or frustration. Rememberthat the practical aspect pf philosophy asks us to examine and perhapseven change something about ourselves. Hopefully, we will be challengedby others with a different opinion, but we need to remember that achallenge to our beliefs is not a threat. To the contrary, it should beregarded as an opportunity to re-evaluate and understand why we holdthese beliefs.

Some important rules to follow:

  1. There will be no Ad hominems(attacks against the person); not following this rule may result infailure of the assignment. You can disagree with a person’s opinions,but you may not attack other people. You may, however, disagree with theideas of others, but do so in a constructive manner. For example, youcan say, “I don’t agree with your post. I think instead that . . . “But, you cannot say, “You’re an idiot” or even “That’s just plainstupid.” Academia requires a diversity of opinions but presentedpolitely; after all, ethics is part of Philosophy.
  2. Avoid makingstatements meant to be absolute (such as, “There is no other way tothink about this”). Instead of asking closed-ended questions looking fora “yes” or “no” or the “right” answer, ask open-ended questions (suchas, “Have you thought about . . . ?”)
  3. Try to connect thecurrent discussion to topics from other lessons. Remember that all ofthe Philosophers wrote about more than a single topic and the way theythink about one area of Philosophy probably affects other areas as well.For example, it might be extremely useful to mention John Stuart Mill’sethical theories from an earlier lesson during a later discussion ofhis support for women’s rights and equality.
  4. Rather than simplyreacting to the readings and the responses of your classmates, thinkabout the arguments being made. Really consider the effectiveness ofthese arguments. “I agree” responses are not useful to the discussionand will not receive credit.

Give some seriousconsideration to the topic or scenario before answering; and, then,using the questions below as a guide, write a 75-100 word initialresponse about the issue being discussed. Next, please take the time torespond to at least two of your classmates.

The scenario:

ImmanuelKant said that lying was, without exception, always wrong and that wehave a moral duty to tell the truth. When posed with a dilemma in whichwe might be tempted to lie, he said we are still obligated to do theright thing, even if we think doing the wrong thing would produce betterresults.

The traditional example is of a serial murderer showingup at your front door and demanding to know the location of your familyso he can kill them. You know full well that you just sent them out theback door, and most people could probably convince themselves thatbecause they do not know the technically “exact” location, saying “Idon’t know” would not be telling a lie.

Additionally, you reasonthat because he is a murderer, you have no real obligation to help himkill your family by telling the truth; so, you lie to him and say, “Idon’t know.”

Unable to complete his plans, he leaves and isheaded back to the sidewalk—just as your family is coming around thehouse. And, he kills them all. Had you told the murderer that the familywent out the back door, that would have bought them the time theyneeded to escape as he ran through the house.

According to Kant,you are now responsible for their deaths because you did the wrongthing. Had you done the right thing, even if your family died, it wouldnot have been your fault. Your lie made you morally responsible fortheir deaths.


Unless being honest would land you in jail, please truthfully discuss the following questions:

  1. Describeunder what circumstances, if any, is it permissible to lie. Under whatcircumstances, if any, do you think it might be preferable to lie? Whatdo your answers indicate about the justification of the nearly universalprinciple that one ought not to lie?
  2. A hungry cannibalchieftain looks you over and declares that you will indeed make a finedinner. Using some of the ideas from our readings, what can you say tothe cannibal chieftain to convince him that cooking you would be morallywrong? (Convincing him that you won’t taste good is not enough to keepyou out of the cooking pot.)

Please read entire discussion. Initial post must be 75 to 150 words, but may go longer depending on the topic. Please cite any outside sources.

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